Of course public speaking can be terrifying. And one loop we can get into is not memorizing the script so well, then worrying, then being in front of an audience and forgetting, then worrying that you have forgotten and spiraling downward. What if instead, you try letting yourself off the hook…

Forgetting your lines during a performance can be quite challenging, but fear not! In the grand scheme of things, your physical appearance and personality are merely illusions. Life is akin to a play, where we rehearse, perform, and move on. The stage is a space where we can try on different personas and experiment with how we want to be in our everyday lives. It can be scary, but it is also a place where magic happens.

As an expert (yeah, that’s me) in public speaking, solo performance, stand-up comedy, and storytelling, I have developed a simple tool to help you return to the magic when you forget your lines. Of course, if you’re an actor, and you’re charged with complete faithfulness to the writer’s script, you can’t quite do this in the same way. But if these are words you’ve written, anything is fair game. Let yourself off the hook!

Remember the pneumonic device RELAX! These six tools will flow to you in a matter of seconds, but time will probably slow down. Use them in this exact order, in somewhat rapid succession, to return to the magic!

Rehearse The most important thing
is to rehearse your lines beforehand. Once you know your lines backward and forward, you become a professional storyteller, comedian, or speaker. If you prefer to use bullet points, that is fine, but avoid using them as an excuse to wing it. You must memorize your script to the point where you can start or stop from anywhere. Anything less than this level of memorization will keep your brain in a fear-state.

Exhale and Inhale (Breathe) When you are on stage
and suddenly forget your lines, take a deep breath. Breathing deeply brings oxygen to your brain, slows your heart rate, and shifts your autonomic nervous system out of “fight or flight” mode. It might even be appropriate to smile, depending on the moment in your piece. Pausing can also convey confidence.

Last lines: Remember what they were
If you still forget your lines after taking a deep breath, remember your last lines. Your last lines hold the key to your next lines. Instead of trying to remember the exact words, think logically about what would naturally happen after what just happened. Make sure your script has logical transitions.

Attention Moves Outward: Shift the focus
If you’re still forgetting your lines and starting to feel self-conscious or anxious, shift your attention outward. Get curious about the people in front of you. Who are they? What are they wearing? The idea here is to take the pressure and attention off of you. It’s not about you; it’s about them! They are rooting for you. They want you to do well. Shifting the focus for a moment and connecting with the audience can be just the break your brain needs to reset and remember.

Xemplify Ease: Say Hey to the Audience
If you still can’t remember your lines, just say “hello” to the audience. Start talking to them. Ask someone a question. Compliment their shoes. Share how you appreciate them being here. This can be an effective way to connect with the audience and buy yourself some time to remember your lines.

In conclusion, dear performer, the next time you forget your lines, just remember to RELAX! Rehearse, breathe, remember your last lines, shift your focus outward, and connect with your audience. You’ve got this!

Alicia Dattner

Comedian and Creatrix Alicia Dattner is an internationally-acclaimed, award-winning performer who loves to help others use the power of humor to transform their lives and write a new unfolding story for the world.


Leave a Reply

Avatar placeholder

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *